Hong Kong recently unveiled its newly revamped brand identity – a stylized version of its previous fiery dragon logo, which had been in use since 2001. The new dragon appears friendlier and has a colorful kite-like tail and boasts the tagline “Asia’s World City.” It looks less exotic than the old logo, but more welcoming.
That got us to wondering what other national tourism brands were out there, and what we found told us a lot about how countries try to appeal to foreign travelers. When we lined up 50 or more national logos, similar visual themes emerged. This said more about what some nations thought tourists wanted to see than about what made them distinct as a destination. On the whole, there was an inordinate use of breezy brushstroke lettering, bright tropical colors, “sunny” O’s and dotted I’s, and hearts and flowers. Some felt appropriate to the flavor, personality and tempo of the place. Others like the logos of former Soviet bloc countries felt generic and not reflective of a region that many associate with rich earthy colors, mysterious architecture and temperature extremes. A beach culture it’s not.
A test of whether a particular tourism logo is right for the place is to surround it with photographs of local geographic landmarks, indigenous art and architecture, and daily life. If the logo feels like it doesn’t belong, it probably doesn’t. A logo can’t encompass every aspect of a culture, but it has to feel true to it. It has to make tourists want to go there because they can’t enjoy the same experience anywhere else.